Your Spring/Summer Music Festival Calendar

Seven festivals to soundtrack the season

Down South we don’t need much of an excuse to put on a festival. Just about anything will do. There’s the annual hollerin’ contest in North Carolina; the Road Kill Cook-off and Harvest Festival in West Virginia; and events dedicated to every fruit and veggie ever grown in Southern soil. When it comes to music, though, Southerners drop the silly and pull in some serious talent, rolling out an impressive lineup of world-class festivals as soon as the weather warms up. Bonnaroo, in Manchester, Tennessee, and Hangout Fest, the three-day beachside blowout, in Gulf Shores, Alabama, are the schedule titans, but if neon tank tops and glow sticks aren’t your thing either, there are plenty of other great outdoor music-fest options for the rest of us.

Merle Fest
Wilkesboro, NC
April 23-26, 2015

Legendary picker Doc Watson, who died in 2012, founded the annual roots-music fest in honor of his son Eddy Merle Watson who was killed in a farming accident in 1985. Tucked in a lush green corner of the Blue Ridge, this is the top spot to hear the best in bluegrass-Steep Canyon Rangers, Robert Earl Keen, Hot Rize, Sam Bush, and the Steel Wheels-and discover up-and-coming young musicians.—

Double Decker Arts Festival
Oxford, MS
April 24-25, 2015

In the beginning, the stage was just the bed of an old pickup. Twenty years later, more than 60,000 fans are expected to flood Oxford’s historic Courthouse Square to hear JJ Grey and Mofro, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Trampled by Turtles tear up the Mississippi night.—

Jazz Fest
New Orleans, LA
April 24 – May 3, 2015

The matchless Crescent City concert hardly needs an introduction. Seven days bursting with jazz, blues, gospel, and contemporary acts—Tedeschi Trucks Band, John Legend, the Treme Brass Band, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Elton John, and Trombone Shorty, to name a few. In between sets, fill up on chargrilled oysters, gumbo, and crawfish tamales. And work in time to head to the Ninth Ward’s Chaz Fest for an all-local lineup.—

Beale Street Music Festival
Memphis, TN
May 1-3, 2015

You’d expect the city that birthed rock-and-roll and the blues to put on a good show. And the Beale Street Music Festival delivers. The Avett Brothers, Wilco, Paramore, Bela Fleck, and the like perform side-by-side with local talent. Stage views of the Mississippi River are an added bonus.—

Forescastle Fest
Louisville, KY
July 17-19, 2015

Hometown boys My Morning Jacket will headline the three-day festival. Joining them at Louisville’s Waterfront Park, overlooking the Ohio River, are Sam Smith, Widespread Panic, Shovels & Rope, and more than sixty others. Of course, some might argue that in the Bluegrass State the biggest draw of all comes aged in white oak barrels. At Forecastle’s Bourbon Lodge, a partnership with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, sip Four Roses, Maker’s Mark, Bulleit, Woodford Reserve. Whatever your favorite label is you’ll likely find it here.—

Sloss Music and Arts Festival
Birmingham, AL
July 18-19, 2015

Former pig iron-producing blast furnace, Sloss Furnaces—maybe the South’s most unique venue—is home to a newly minted music festival. The inaugural two-day event’s three stages will welcome thirty-plus acts. Sturgill Simpson, Band of Horses, and Lee Baines and the Glory Fires, among others, will keep the party going. Birmingham barbecue boss Nick Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ will keep you going with heaps of pulled pork and sides.—

Floyd Fest
Floyd, VA
July 22-26, 2015

The string-heavy Americana lineup is the draw in this tiny Appalachian hideout. Population 428, Floyd takes Southern hospitality to new heights, welcoming more than 15,000 music-loving souls for the five-day fest. Thousands camp, but overnighting in a tent doesn’t mean you have to rough it. Book a bunk with the folks at Solid Ground Shelters, and you get a luxe canvas shelter, a real bed, hardwood floors, and power. But if air conditioning is deal breaker, there are plenty of cozy B&B’s in the area, or the homey Hotel Floyd will gladly be your host for the weekend. Just book early. Greensky Bluegrass, Drive-by Truckers, and Sam Bush are among the confirmed 2015 acts.—